Dubai Expo opens, bringing Middle East its first global exhibition

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – After eight years of planning and billions of dollars in spending, the Middle East’s first world fair opened in Dubai on Friday, in hopes that the months-long extravaganza will attract people to both visitors and the world’s attention to this desert. -turned-dream landscape.

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed Expo 2020 back by a year and could affect the number of people flocking to the United Arab Emirates. But the six-month exhibition still provides Dubai with a momentous opportunity to showcase its unique appeal between East and West as a place where everyone is welcome to do business.

Not so long ago, the 1,080-acre Expo site was a barren wasteland. Now it’s a futuristic landscape buzzing with robots barking automated orders at bare-faced visitors to mask themselves, a new subway station, multi-million dollar pavilions and so-called neighborhoods with names like “sustainability And ‘opportunity’ – all built, like much of the Gulf, by low-paid migrant workers.

More than 190 nations use their pavilions to highlight their greatest tourist attractions, discoveries and ambitions. The American pavilion, paid for by the United Arab Emirates after the United States was unable to raise funds on time, has a replica of the Space X Falcon 9 rocket and takes visitors on a conveyor belt past multimedia infomercials on American inventions. It also displays a Koran that belonged to the country’s third president, Thomas Jefferson, as an example of how religious freedom “is woven into the very fabric of American society.”

The expansive lantern-shaped Chinese pavilion focuses on the nation’s space ambitions and future inventions, featuring a Transformer-type car that SAIC Motor hopes will one day function as a submarine and helicopter as well.

Draped over the flag of Italy, there are 40 miles of rope made from 2 million plastic bottles. The main attraction, however, is a 3-D marble replica of Michelangelo’s biblical hero, David. The 17-foot-tall naked giant is not easily accessible – visitors must enter separate floors of a building to see it at eye level or look from its feet. Public nudity is prohibited in the United Arab Emirates, where traditional Muslim norms largely prevail.

The UAE’s falcon-shaped pavilion, by far the largest on the site, takes visitors on a two-hour immersive experience through dunes of real orange sand and footage of the country’s 50-year history.

Other attractions include an African dining hall, a massive mirror-shaped fountain with silver cascades of water coming and going, a recently excavated Egyptian royal mummy, concerts and shows from around the world, and the option to dine on a $ 500 meal dish with phosphorescent cooking.

As night fell and the call to prayer echoed musically through the park, the pavilions came alive with lights, lasers and kaleidoscopic shows.

Isabel Fu, 50, said she flew to the Expo from Beijing to see “the kind of changes we will see in the future, the technology that makes us look forward to the next era.” Upon her return to China, she faces 21 days of quarantine.

Ever since they caused a sensation in London in 1851, the World’s Fairs have long been an opportunity for nations to meet, exchange ideas, showcase inventions, promote culture and forge business ties.

For more than a century, world exhibitions have captured the imagination and showcased some of mankind’s most important innovations. The first World’s Fair held in the United States in 1876 debuted with Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, typewriter, mechanical calculator, and Heinz KHC,
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Ketchup. One of its main buildings, Memorial Hall, is now a museum.

Other fairs introduced inventions like the sewing machine, the elevator, soda ash, the Ferris wheel and, in 1939 in New York City, television.

This year’s Expo takes place as the virus continues to spread across the world, with countless numbers of people working and studying remotely – and virtually connecting to the world. It’s unclear how many visitors Dubai can attract and to what extent the Expo will boost its tourism-driven economy – especially in the scorching heat of early fall, which on Friday raised spirits, some visitors were pass out and most people sweat through their shirts. .

“We are dying! Humans cannot tolerate this weather, ”exclaimed Warda Abadi, 35, from Saudi Arabia, as she guided her lame mother into the shade.

To enter the Expo site, visitors must present a negative PCR test or proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

The ruler of Dubai and the force behind the transformation of the emirate, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, described Expo 2020 as a chance to showcase the best of human excellence.

“It offers a platform to forge a united global effort to build a more sustainable and prosperous future for all mankind,” he told guests at the Expo opening ceremony.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince and de facto ruler of the UAE’s seat of power, Abu Dhabi, emphasized “the ethics of this land” as a meeting point of cultures and tolerance.

Whether Iran or Israel, every nation is welcome at the Dubai Expo. The space reserved for the Afghanistan pavilion, however, appeared vacant weeks after the Taliban took control of Kabul.

“It makes me very proud to see so many different types of cultures, countries and traditions coming to my country for the first time,” said Isa Nuaimi, a 25-year-old government pilot from the Emirati city of Al Ain. .

Human Rights Watch, however, said the UAE’s efforts to present itself as an “open and tolerant country” remain at odds with its human rights violations, including the suppression of peaceful criticism, the imprisonment of activists and the pervasive government oversight.

“The United Arab Emirates has embarked on a decades-long effort to whitewash its reputation on the international stage,” the human rights group said.

The Expo site will attempt to dazzle visitors with a central dome, marketed as the world’s largest 360-degree projection screen.

Certain universal exhibition structures remain emblematic markers of the human journey and of our industrial evolution. Nothing more than the Eiffel Tower, which was built in Paris, not only to be the tallest structure in the world at the time, but to serve as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair. Seattle’s Space Needle , Washington, built for the 1962 World’s Fair, also continues to enjoy worldwide notoriety.

While most of the shows have been held in Europe and the United States, none have been held in the Middle East so far.

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